Searching with Metadata in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

August 20, 2010 | | Comments 21

Updated Version of This Article

Please click here to read the newest version of this article on Organizing With Metadata in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom at


Filed Under: (04) Organizing with LightroomAdobe Photoshop Lightroom Tutorials


About the Author: David Marx teaches digital photography workshops and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom training classes. David is an Adobe Certified Expert in Photoshop Lightroom and in Adobe Photoshop. David has lead workshops and seminars for the Rocky Mountain School of Photography, the American Society of Media Photographers, FirstLight Photography Workshops, and he teaches annually at the world-famous Blackberry Farm Resort. For more information on his Photoshop Lightroom training seminars and digital photography field workshops please visit You can also follow daily updates and see new images from David on Google+.

RSSComments (21)

Leave a Reply | Trackback URL

  1. Kerry Frank says:

    Hi David, my questions is regard searching a large catalog. I was having a conversation the other evening with a pro who is a member of a local photo club I belong to. I was sharing my import strategy which I have setup completely based on your tutorials. I love all the automatic stuff LR does right down to renaming the files and creating new date-based sub-directories. So thanks for the great tips! However, this pro argued that unless I have closer control over what my directory and filenames are I will have difficulty a few years from now when I have thousands of images and can’t remember a shoot place, name, location, date, or ANYTHING about the shoot. His question was “how will you find those images in you can’t remember any of that and not be able to browse a name based directory structure and files? I didn’t have a good answer. Can you suggest how this can be done within the LR searching functions? Thanks and best regards from California!

  2. Hola David! buenos días!
    I m an amateur photographer since my dark room many years ago. Digital Photography has certainly passed right over me and i need todo my best effort to catch up.
    I just acquired a D3200 and interestingly I found out later that it does not have the Auto Bracketing feature, I m passioned by HDR photography.
    Due to my realtor occupation I have aprox 50k pictures in maybe about 200 folders, in most of them, i have within different types of files, windows office, iWorks, CAD files, Scanned PDF files etc, What do you recommend, make pone folder for imagens only, will that make my iMac faster?
    I dont have Lightroom, after seeing your Videos I m getting ASAP.
    what do you recommend for HDR?

    thank you and have a great day!

    • David Marx says:

      Dear Hector Moreno,

      Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is my program of choice for image organization and raw file enhancement. For HDR work I use Adobe Photoshop CS6 and the Nik’s HDR Pro software. But my choices may not be the best solutions for you. Given the variety of files that you are working with perhaps the Adobe Bridge / Adobe Photoshop CS6 are a better solution. Lightroom can help you organize all those photos. Lightroom can help you work with HDR composites. Lightroom can speed up image delivery or printing but it cannot do anything with .pdf’s, word docs, etc. For that sort of file Adobe Bridge is a better choice.

      Best of luck,

      David Marx

  3. Carl Socolow says:

    Hey David, Happy New Year. A question regarding keywording. I’m keywording new work that I’m adding to our college’s server as I produce and catalogue photos. I’m also using your tutorials to build keyword sets so I can slowly update non-keyworded files already on the server within the existing folder tree structure. This is all well and good for me being able to find files (eventually) but I also have colleagues who will need to be able to do keyword searches for these newly catalogued files. So my question is do I simply share my catalogue with them? If so, how do I make it dynamic so that as I update it it also stays current for them? Should I load it on the server? I know that IT does daily and weekly backups which is helpful but I’m curious about your thoughts on the logistics/benefits/pitfalls on this.



    • David Marx says:

      Dear Carl Socolow,

      Harsh truth here. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is not a network ready application. Photoshop Lightroom Catalogs will not run off a server! This program is absolutely not designed for this sort of shared environment. That said your colleagues could use a product like the Adobe Bridge to search through the images on the server without the need for access to your Lightroom Catalog. It could get messy though….

      If shared access is your ultimate goal then you need to carefully investigate all of the options including other software that is intended for this sort of work environment. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but this program was never intended for this purpose.

      David Marx

      • Carl Socolow says:

        David, Not a problem and you confirmed what I suspected. I’m happy just to get things organized so that I can retrieve photos. Your site has been a big help. I’ve built about ten keyword sets already today based on the server’s file tree structure. So I’ll at least be able to get these puppies cataloged in record time.

        I know that most everybody here who has need of photos has Bridge loaded on their computers and, indeed, that’s how I had been managing pictures before I moved to Lightroom. So they can search by my keywords and retrieve accordingly. I’ll just manage the catalog from my Mac using Lightroom.

        Thanks as always for your prompt reply and your helpful advice.


        • David Marx says:

          Dear Carl Socolow,

          I am glad to hear that you are ok with this answer. All too often I find that photographers in your shoes do no take the news that Lightroom is not a network-ready application well! It’s one of the things that I would make much more prominent if I wrote Adobe’s product literature. Working with Bridge is an adequate solution but you and your colleagues should make list of rules so that their activities do not confuse your Lightroom Catalog. If someone, for examples, renames a photo or moves the file from folder to folder it is going to upset your index…

          David Marx

          • Carl Socolow says:


            Fortunately, I’m the only one with write privileges on the photos and the photo folder on the server. So I am the rules.


  4. David says:

    I am trying to figure out how to do a search in my entire catalog for images taken on a certain month and year using the Metadata Filter. My images have been imported into many different folders depending on the subject. Example:


    Unless I’m missing something it seems I have to go into each “sub-folder” and do a search. I cannot find a way to select the main “Photo Folder” and have it do a search of my entire catalog, all the “sub-folders”. I do only have one catalog.

    What, if anything am I missing?


    • David Marx says:

      Dear David,

      Start by going to “All Photographs” in the Library Catalog Panel. Make sure that all your other filters are turned off and then open up the Metadata Filter. Set the first panel to Date. I also suggest setting the View options for this filter panel to Hierarchical and the Sort order to Ascending. You should now be able to see all of your images based on the file’s capture date. Turning on the little padlock in the far upper right of the filter bar might also help keep this filter active no matter what folder you visit.

      David Marx

  5. Meredith says:

    This is great – a few quick questions:

    1) how would you search for a date plus a keyword (ie all photos of X taken in March 2009)?

    2) how do you distinguish between an “and” search (a photo of X and Y), an “or” search (X or Y) or a “not” search (X but not Y)

    3) does the metadata travel with your photos as they go in to PS and are later saved as .psd? what about photos that are exported as jpegs?

    Random side thought – if your photos start out as DNG, are brought into PS and saved as PSD or TIFF, and then eventually saved as JPEG for output to the web, etc – does your catalog contain all three versions of the same photo?

    Thank you!

  6. Jane says:


    My question is somewhat tangential to this very helpful posting. I have been keeping notes about images (e.g., number sold, print version) in the caption line in the metadata. I realise this is less than ideal (do I really want to include this in an image that I am emailing to a show?) and am wondering if there is any place in LR 3 (other than in the metadata) where one can keep very brief notes about images.

    Many thanks,


  7. David, is there a way by which one can provide the same metadata to several pictures at one time or does one have to do it individually.

    • davem says:

      Dear Arizona Aircraft Dealers,

      You most certainly can apply metadata to multiple files at once while working in the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Library Module. The trick is to select all of the appropriate files; either by using shift + click, control / command + click, edit > select all, etc. Once selected anything you change effects all of the files. You can see these tricks in action in our videos on using keyword sets and collection basics.

      David Marx

  8. Hi David
    Great articles on indexing photo’s. I would like to ask the same question as Kristin above.
    The second one I have yet to find an answer to is how does one search the database which I understand is SQLite to find a particular set of keywords/metadata? to locate a particular customer requirement.
    Icing on the cake !!
    Thanks in anticipation
    Niel W

    • davem says:

      Dear Niel W,

      I just posted a semi-answer to Kristin’s question. Basically, I suggest changing her filenames on import. Your second question though puzzles me. Are you asking about how to search for an image from within Lightroom or are you asking how to search through the database file outside of the program? I have no idea how to do the later but the first, finding a photo in Lightroom by searching for a particular keyword (or other metadata field) is a piece of cake!

      To find an image using a metadata search go to Grid View in the Library Module and then click on the Text Filter button at the top of your screen. Select the appropriate metadata field, the right Boolean options, and type in the word you want! Assuming that you have images that match this term then the result will be almost instantaneous.

      David Marx

  9. Kristin says:

    Hi David,

    I need to print out contact sheets of photos (as pdfs) and printed under/on each photo I want to add a numercial lable, so that each photo has a unique number. The numbering format is something like this: AB123456, AB123457, AB123458 etc. The numbers will have letters a the beginning and then a numbered squence (that may not start at 0 or 1).

    Is there a metadata field that I can create these sequential numbers??? Or do I need to change the file names to these numbers?? So that when I print out the contact sheets I can tell lightroom to print these numbers with the photos?

    Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated!
    Thank you,

  10. Adrian Franco says:

    David, is there a way by which one can provide the same metadata to several pictures at one time or does one have to do it individually.